Ponyo (2008) Review

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Ponyo (2008) (aka Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea)
Gake no Ue no Ponyo
Japanese:
崖の上のポニョ

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Cast:
Tomoko Yamaguchi
Kazushige Nagashima
Yūki Amami
George Tokoro
Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Rumi Hiiragi
Akiko Yano
Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Tomoko Naraoka

(English Dub Voice Cast: Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, BETTY WHITE!)

Running time: 101 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Mainly the English dubbed version – saw the subtitled version years ago

Ponyo is very cute. Cutesy cute! Cute is a funny word, isn’t it? Like with Kiki’s Delivery Service & My Neighbor Tororo, Ponyo is a very kid friendly Studio Ghibli film. I’d say it’s actually aimed at the youngest age range of all as the two main characters are very young but it’s far more strange than Kiki’s Delivery Service so it MAY not be as popular with kids as that one. I guess it depends on the kid and if they like unusual stories or not.

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Ponyo is an adorable little goldfish who longs to be human, especially after tasting human BLOOD! Lol. (No, really…). Basically, her father is human but, I think, magic or something so he now lives under the sea with all his “fish children” he had with some sort of huge Goddess of the Sea. Or… Something like that. Am I selling this to anyone yet?!

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So… Ponyo’s father, who’s this weird cross between David Bowie & Alice Cooper, doesn’t want Ponyo to become human but she loves a little boy named Sōsuke who helped her & took care of her when he found her stuck in a bottle in the sea. She wants to be human & live with Sōsuke.

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Subtitled vs Dubbed:

Ponyo’s Bowie/Cooper father looks super cool yet sounds like… Liam Neeson?! I first saw Ponyo years ago with subtitles, which I always prefer. I’ve only seen the dubbed version since as I have it recorded off TV & it’s the only version I have. I have got to buy the DVD. A character that looks like that dude above should NOT sound like Liam Neeson. And Ponyo, as adorable as she is, is very shout-y in the dubbed version. I’d like to see the subtitled one again to hear what she sounded like as I can’t now remember. The shout-y overexcited thing kind of actually works for this character as she’s still learning to be human and is so very happy. Looking this up I see that she’s voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Miley’s younger sister. Ha! Well, I don’t think subtlety runs in that family so a shout-y performance isn’t surprising. Like I say, it kind of works but I really wish to stop seeing the dubbed version. Again, though, you’re likely to watch this one with a young kid so you’d be watching it dubbed. Oh! But I have no complaints about Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, and especially Betty White as the three old women. Those ladies ROCK. 🙂

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Summary:

I haven’t really said much about this one. It’s a hard one to describe. It’s odd but also very sweet & innocent. It’s about unconditional love (Sōsuke must prove that he can love Ponyo whether she be a fish or human). I think young kids will love both Sōsuke & Ponyo and will just roll with the slightly odd story as young minds are usually more open to these sorts of things. It’s really not much more odd than a lot of Disney fairy tales. I do recommend this one to kids & to adult Studio Ghibli fans. Of all the Ghiblis, it’s definitely the most “sweet” and it’s hard to not like Sōsuke & Ponyo and seeing a love so pure.

My Rating: 8/10

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The Croods (2013) Review

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I get a little snobby about animated kids films. If it’s not Pixar, I’m usually not all that interested. DreamWorks make okay animated films that are decent enough & a way to switch off for a couple of hours while your kids are entertained. I even find Shrek a little overrated. Shrek isn’t bad but it’s certainly not something I’d ever consider a favorite movie of mine.

Pixar, on the other hand, manage to make what I see as proper “family” films that adults enjoy just as much as the kids do (well, I do at least!). Pixar films don’t treat kids like idiots – they’re not dumbed down for the kids but they’re still completely kid friendly and appropriate for all ages (without humor that’s a little TOO risqué being thrown in here & there to wake up the adults who are bored in the audience – I hate kids films that resort to that in a pathetic & unfunny way). And I think Pixar films are just much more “timeless” (I love that word – I use it a lot). Something like Finding Nemo will be just as loved 30 years from now whereas I don’t see most of the DreamWorks stuff aging as well (in my opinion!). I always take a long time to get to my point… My point is that I’ll review this movie for what it is – a DreamWorks movie aimed at kids. It’s not something I expected to be in the same league as Pixar films like Toy Story. Or even Despicable Me! (See? I can like a non-Pixar! Love that one). 🙂

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The Croods is about a family of cavemen (or I suppose cavepeople as there are girls too). As it was a very dangerous time to live in, the father in the movie (voiced by Nicolas Cage) is very overprotective of his family and insists that they never stray far from their cave or leave it at all after dark. (So, he’s Marlin). His teenage daughter (voiced by Emma Stone) is becoming more and more curious about what’s out there in the world but her father won’t let her explore – he believes that curiosity is dangerous (so the daughter is Nemo). I’m sorry – I promise to try to shut up about Pixar but it really is Finding Nemo with ugly cavepeople instead of adorable little fish! 😉

Well, ugly cavepeople except for one – Enter teenage caveboy heart-throb (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Seriously, he actually IS fairly hot – I think he’s even better looking than his voice actor. Check him out:

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So, anyway, teenage cavegirl sees this light one night and leaves the safety of the cave to follow it. Turns out it’s something called fire, which hot caveboy (who is further evolved than the Croods) has discovered. Cavegirl instantly falls for caveboy. CaveDAD, of course, does NOT approve of this boy who has come along and made his daughter want to leave the safety of their cave. Caveboy wants her to join him as he follows the sun to what he thinks will be a safer place because he believes the world is ending.

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Unfortunately (but fortunately for the sake of the story, of course), The Croods cave is destroyed in an earthquake. The Croods then have no choice but to follow caveboy to a safer place.

The story then goes exactly how you’d expect it to. Caveboy eventually earns cavedad’s trust as they make their way on their long journey to a safer land (That’s really not a spoiler to anyone who’s ever watched any movie EVER). And of course cavedad and cavedaughter end up bonding and cavedad learns that it’s important to live your life instead of always being scared & hiding away from everything (Again – not exactly a spoiler. We’ve all seen Finding Nemo!). 😉

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In all honesty, though, The Croods isn’t bad & it’s even a bit better than I was expecting. It starts out a little slow and, of course, everything is very drab & colorless when they won’t stray far from their cave. Once they follow hot caveboy, though, they find a lovely green & colorful land filled with all kinds of strange & wonderful creatures. The movie was a lot more fun to watch once this happened.

As for the characters, the main three I mentioned are fine. As with any animated story, you need a main set of characters like these to drive the story along. But, as is very important in animated kids films, you need some fun extra characters to provide the comic relief. The other characters that make up The Croods are:

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– The Cavegrandmother (voiced by Cloris Leachman). She’s the mother-in-law to cavedad so you get all your typical “I hate my mother-in-law” type jokes there. She’s fine. She’s crazy, of course. Cloris Leachman always does a great crazy-old-lady (love her as this in the TV show Raising Hope).

– The Cavemother (voiced by Catherine Keener). Not funny or anything – just a typical animated mother-type. Fine but a little boring. The voice of reason when Cavedad is being ridiculous (of course).

– The Cavebrother. Not much to say about him. He’s the most boring of the characters. He’s, of course, extremely dumb.

– The Baby Cavesister. She’s a fairly entertaining character. She’s like a rabid little dog, which is kind of cute.

– Belt. This was my favorite character. He’s a sloth who’s caveboy’s pet (and also acts as his belt, holding caveboy’s pants up). He does a funny little thing a few times in the movie – I won’t give it away (best bit in the movie- not sure if it’s been in trailers anyway). Best character – should have been used slightly more.

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Summary: The Croods is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from DreamWorks. It’s not the best animated DreamWorks film but it’s not the worst – it’s probably somewhere in the middle. The kids will be entertained but the adults might lose interest a few times & zone out (I actually had to look up what destroyed their cave because I seemed to space out at that point in the movie – it was suddenly destroyed & I had NO idea why). It’s not gonna change the world. Go to it. Zone out. Eat some popcorn. Laugh at Belt. Be annoyed when sometimes Nicolas Cage sounds a bit too Nicolas Cage-y. 🙂

My Rating: 6/10

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